Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Gender

Love the comments, everyone. (Though just to clarify - it's my analytical skills that I am happiest being judged by, as long as it doesn't seem patronizing. Not so thrilled about the soft skill stuff because I feel skeptical about interviewers' abilities to accurately evaluate that aspect :)

I have pondered about posting some of my thoughts on the gender side of this experience but feel very nervous about doing so. I see men and women alike struggle with the job stuff and certainly fellow female GSBers go on to have successful IM careers. I haven't wanted to comment on gender for fear of over emphasizing what is usually something I don't think is worth commenting on.

But there are moments when I wonder if I'm being a bit naive/overly optimistic to assume away the gender barrier completely - frankly, I do feel like I have to go further than a comparable male colleague to prove myself in the interviews. I've had male students remark that being a woman is an advantage because it helps me stand out but I feel that I have to be more cautious about what I reveal about myself* and more aggressive about overcoming a deep seated reluctance to believe I could really be passionate about this line of work** and have a strong command of the technical skills necessary to succeed***. And there are the occasional moments when the gender bias is revealed quite clearly which is on one hand sort of a relief (good to know what's really going on in someone's head) but, on the other hand, very disappointing and a stark reminder that sexism is definitely alive and well.

One of the first cases we worked on for my Managing the Workplace course was on Deloitte's Women's Initiative. Something that really struck me was the firm's realization that when a up and coming woman stumbled a bit or showed any weaknesses, male superiors' reaction was to see this as confirmation that she would never be able to rise to the top, whereas similar shortcomings in an up and coming man were viewed more as temporary glitches that could be overcome with the right assistance. Essentially, the older men looked at the younger men and saw themselves and thought of their own foibles at that age but it was harder to identify with the younger women. It's not about overt sexism or stereotypes but about the fact that human natures inclines us to be most comfortable with the familiar and the known and often this falls along gender lines. I have known and worked with wonderful men and I know that there is as much diversity in behavior and mentality within each gender as across gender ... but as a woman trying to operate in a nearly all male sphere, I have yet to completely shake off the nagging concern that there's a bit of unevenness in this playing field.

I support the women in business group on campus, though I often wonder about the value of such a group. I'd be very interested in others' opinions on gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, nationality ...

*for example, despite the fact my husband moved to Chicago with me and has moved for me before, if I mention I ended up in Seattle because of him, my interviewer assumes my life revolves around my husband and I can't be relied on

**for example, interesting comment from second year male GSBer in this regard

***I have a degree in Economics (top grades), a decent GMAT score, 5 years experience in financial services, the CFA designation, am concentrating in Analytical Finance at the University of Chicago, presumably it's safe to assume that my basic financial skills are sound and I "like math" ... no?

1 comment:

HappyBunny said...

I think gender discrimination often lies on the fact that female partner is center of the family. 9 months pregnancy + 3 months of infant care taking, it will definitely drawn energy. The company start doubt your commitment. I believe not until the male partner is sharing the same responsibility at home. Not until company realize a more sufficient way to use female talent. The sexist will always exist. It's not fair. But, for every woman fight for her talent to be recognized, fight for doing things she wants, it is an inch gained. I think we have been step on other women's shoulder to get to where we are. And, now it's our turn to be the shoulder. :P

Look at women's rights 50 years ago, think about women's rights 50 years later. Well, you are making history :P